Q article - June 29, 2001
Barcelona, June 29, 2001
By Nick Duerden
It is sometime after 11 o'clock on a very warm night in north eastern Spain. Two members of Weezer—singer Rivers Cuomo and bassist Mikey Welsh—are ambling around backstage, post-show. Welsh, like everyone else in tonight's audience, is soaked with sweat, his hair plastered across one side of his bright pink face. Cuomo, however, has somehow maintained his perennial pale state. Despite the heat, and the fact that he is wearing a vest, shirt, and a khaki body warmer (buttoned to the neck), he is not even remotely perspiring. Or smiling. This despite the fact that Weezer have just played an absolutely storming gig. "It wasn't good," he argues, "but it wasn't a disaster. Let's just say we survived."
What was the problem?
"Well Mikey was fucking up throughout the set, and intruding on my emotional space."
Welsh shakes his head and grins mischievously. "I fucked up nothing," he says. "I wasn't the problem, it was him. He wasn't concentrating and, consequently, he ruined things for everyone else."
It's now Cuomo's turn to smile sourly. "OK, let's just leave it at this: the show was below average for us. You should have seen us last night. We were flying."
Weezer are a curious American band, quirky like They Might Be Giants, energetic like Green Day, and absolutely adored by Limp Bizkit. Formed in Los Angeles in 1992, they released their eponymously titled debut album three years later, had a huge hit with "Buddy Holly" across the world, and sold three million records. But Cuomo was far from happy.
A small town man with the features of a young Rick Moranis and the nervous disposition of Woody Allen, he was the archetypal square peg. In 1996 they released Pinkerton, a far darker record that reflected his then-gloomy state. "I was jaded," he says now, "very jaded." While on tour in Boston, he visited Harvard University, liked what he saw, applied to study English Literature, and promptly shelved the band. For five years.
"I never meant to quit music at all," he says. "I just wanted to try something different. and it was interesting—for a while [he didn't finish the course]. When I look back on that now, I'm stunned that five years passed. Where did they go? For me, it just felt like the longest day of my life."
They finally reconvened last summer to record The Green Album, and were greatly relieved to learn that they hadn't, in their words, lost it.
Cramming 11 songs into a little over 30 minutes, it is very short and really very good. "It is, isn't it?" says Cuomo. "We knew that, if we made a good album, then we could be huge all over again. But if it turned out to be shitty, then we'd have been dead." He smiles, but only slightly. "Still living," he says.
Weezer's pop dynamic is often exquisite to witness. They can deliver fully formed three-minute gems that positively reel with melody, harmony, and momentum. But on-stage, they cut a strange, almost surreal sight. While at least three of them (including Brian Bell on guitar and Pat Wilson on drums) attack each song with tremendous vigor, the over-dressed Cuomo stands stock still, seemingly ill at ease. Songs chug like a steel train at full power, and yet he exhibits all the body language of Elliot Smith singing a slow song about suicide.
"Of course I don't feel comfortable on-stage," he says, as if anything else it completely ridiculous. "But I'm working on it. Believe me, within the next 20-30 years I'll have the whole cool frontman thing down perfectly."
This may not be necessary because, here in Barcelona, the band are treated like rock gods. Seventeen short sharp songs come and go in 60 minutes, and each one receives the same response: giddy enthusiasm. At least two girls faint from the heat; and when an ecstatic "Undone (The Sweater Song)" is performed, one crippled audience member shakes both his crutches in the air, while a nearby couple begin dry-humping at the bar. Good signs, all.
Later, after a change of clothes (he is now wearing a green body warmer) Rivers Cuomo decides to hit the town. He wants to go to a club and hear some trance music. Eventually he finds somewhere but, at just 2am, it is still early by Spanish standards and so the place is deserted. Unthwarted, he sits down, and earnestly watches the DJ, well, DJ. Occasionally, he nods his head, quite possibly in enjoyment, although his face gives nothing away.
He's still not sweating.